Edible classrooms? Plus rooftop farming. Meet the EcoRestoration Alliance and CommonVisions.
Edible Classrooms? Rooftop Farming, the EcoRestoration Alliance, CommonVisions
WHAT IS “ECOLITERACY” ANYWAY?
One great thing about reporting on climate change is all the new words I’m learning. For example, Ecoliteracy. At first I thought it meant reading green books. Turns out, not so much. Ecoliteracy is the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. For instance, in the case of reforestation, ecoliteracy would dictate, “the right tree in the right place in the right community.” Sounds simple but it’s not.
For example, the U.S. Forest Service is supposed to be expert in silviculture. And yet it followed a “pines in lines” approach to replanting clear cut or fire-ravaged sections of forests for most of its 150 + year existence. It would replenish mixed-growth areas with a single, commercially viable pine tree. Five years later, those reforested sections would look like overgrown crop rows that you might find on any farm. Later, if a fire or disease hit, those same places would be ravaged again. Why? Because nature thrives on diversity and biodiversity. And by diversity we mean random patterns of tree plantings; and by biodiversity we mean anything other than a homogenous set of arbors.
It took many hard-learned lessons and over a century for the Forest Service to recognize they were doing it wrong. So that’s why this matters to us. Specifically, tree ecoliteracy in terms of reforestation and afforestation will absolutely decrease CO2 in our atmosphere. And generally speaking, overall ecoliteracy will catalyze workforce development, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and empower women and girls. Without ecoliteracy, ecological understanding remains a major barrier to public mobilization on issues such as climate change.
THE TRIBAL ECORESTORATION ALLIANCE PRESENTS INDIGENOUS ECO-LITERACY
Despite the horrific damage suffered by wildfires in southern Australia in 2019, forested portions of northern Australia largely escaped such damage. The success in northern Australia is the result of sustained and arduous on-ground work by a range of landowners and managers. Of greatest significance is the fire management from Indigenous community-based ranger groups, which has led to one of the most significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction practices in Australia. Now, other parts of the developed world are turning to their indigenous people for wisdom about harmonizing with the natural world.
In the USA, one such organization gaining popularity among the mainstream is Tribal EcoRestoration Alliance, TERA. The mission of TERA is “to cultivate land stewardship, livelihood, and leadership skills that weave collaborative relationships between Tribal members and the community at large, for the benefit of all lands and beings.”
It’s a cross-cultural, multi-organizational collaborative that works to revitalize ecology, economy, and culture through indigenous-led stewardship based in the ancestral territories of Eastern and Southeastern Pomo, Lake Miwak and the Wappo people, otherwise known as Lake County, CA. Some of its partner organizations include the Robinson Rancheria and the Scotts Valley band of Pomo Indians, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
TERA provides eco-literacy and vocational training. According to its website, a Native Stewards Fellowship program is set to begin in fall 2021. The training prepares participants for ongoing careers with livable wages and upward mobility in the fields of restoration ecology, wildland firefighting and prescribed fire, forestry and fuel load reduction. Check it out!
COMMON VISIONS EDIBLE CLASSROOMS
I lived in southern California for over a decade. While there, I was affiliated with a group called Food from the ‘Hood. The goal of Food from the ‘Hood was to bring nature to Crenshaw High School’s students as a salve for the stress of their uber urban lives. I saw lives transform in that urban garden.
Under the best circumstances, school gardens are utterly inspiring. They are places where students engage with the natural world, connect with and begin to understand food systems. At their worst, school gardens are exercises in unhealthy soils, dead plants and student frustration.
Gardens can be the perfect setting for students to begin learning about climate change in an inspiring and empowering manner. But for those to happen, the garden has to be a thriving, productive space, bursting at the seams with a bounty of life and fresh food to eat, so says Commonvisions.org, on its website. Common Visions is a California-based non-profit whose latest goal is to establish orchards in 1,000 schools by 2025.
Rather than relying on conventional low-lying, seasonal crops found in most school gardens, Common Vision takes a unique approach, using fruit trees and other perennials to create extremely high-yielding, low-maintenance, and low-cost school gardens. This allows students to eat tons of fresh fruit, while freeing teachers and garden coordinators to focus on education instead of garden maintenance. They call it, “Edible Classrooms.”
The Climate Daily tried to reach out to CommonVisions to get more information about this great program. Alas there’s no phone number and the email response has gone unanswered thus far. Also, the last website update is from 2020, so we can’t tell you if the organization is still operating. Not to worry, there’s plenty of good information on the site for others to carry forward the “orchard in a school garden” concept to other school districts and states.
ROOFTOP FARMING GOES OFFICIAL AT THE GREENROOFS.ORG URBAN FOOD PRODUCTION VIRTUAL SYMPOSIUM
When you think of urban agriculture you probably think about urban space for food production, especially for fruits and vegetables. But, there are other viable types of production that you can get involved in, including microgreens, mushrooms, and edible insects! In fact, urban agriculture has more capabilities than food production! It supports local economies, creates jobs, improves food access, and provides ecosystem services.
Cue rooftop farms. Rooftop farms are innovative and accessible urban farming solutions for institutions, restaurants and commercial properties of all sizes. Rooftop farms have long been popular in Asia and parts of Europe. Now thanks to some high profile projects right here in the good ol’ USA, rooftop farming is finally gaining traction.
One example is at Fenway Park, known for its Big Green Wall. Since 2015, it’s also now known for its big rooftop farm. A modular system filled with compost-based growing media enables the 7,000-sq. foot farm to efficiently grow over 6,000 pounds of organic produce annually during the three-season operation. Harvested crops such as arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, herbs, and potatoes are selected by EMC Club Kitchen chefs for use in salads and fresh side dishes, as well as for use by street-side food vendors. According to recovergreenroofs.com, Some 2.9 million visitors who come to the park each year get the chance to witness the rooftop farm in action.
Another example is BOSTON’S FIRST ROOFTOP FARM ON A HOSPITAL installed on Earth Day 2017. The rooftop farm absorbs stormwater and reduces the building’s carbon footprint at the same time as it provides thousands of pounds of fresh, healthy produce for patients and the hospital’s Preventative Food Pantry. Rooftops and farms. Two great things that now go great together.